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Few prehistoric developments have received as much attention as the origins of agriculture and its associated societal implications in the Near East. A great deal of this research has focused on correlating the timing of various cultural transformations leading up to farming and village life with dramatic climatic events. Using rigorously selected radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites and palaeoenvironmental datasets, we test the predominate models for culture change from the early Epipalaeolithic to the Pottery Neolithic (c. 23,000–8000 cal. bp) to explore how well they actually fit with well-documented and dated palaeoclimatic events, such as the Bølling-Allerød, Younger Dryas, Preboreal and 8.2 ka event. Our results demonstrate that these correlations are not always as clear or as consistent as some authors suggest. Rather, any relationships between climate change and culture change are more complicated than existing models allow. The lack of fit between these sources of data highlight our need for further and more precise chronological data from archaeological sites, additional localized palaeoclimatic data sets, and more nuanced models for integrating palaeoenvironmental data and prehistoric people's behaviours.
Archaeologists increasingly recognize a need to revise the scales at which we investigate identities such as gender, class and faction in ancient complex societies. In this article I present research on the expression of gender roles and ideologies in the performance of mortuary ritual in four distinctive residential areas of Classic Teotihuacan, including the urban compounds of La Ventilla 3, Tlajinga 33 and Tlailotlacan 6 and the hinterland settlement of Axotlan. Results indicate that gender was constructed and experienced differently across Teotihuacan society. This research demonstrates that multiscalar, comparative approaches to social identity make possible a fuller understanding of the significance of social heterogeneity in structuring early states.
This article takes a critical look at claims that Landscape Phenomenology owes an ancestral debt to the work of early antiquarians; a belief that is in danger of becoming an orthodoxy through casual repetition. Through an exploration of the inherent tensions that arise when attempts are made to link pioneering empiricists (who in many senses embodied the Baconian experimental science of the seventeenth century) and Landscape Phenomenology (that positions itself in direct opposition to this enlightenment project) it is argued that rather than antiquarian practices pre-empting or anticipating those of Landscape Phenomenology, the nagging sense that the two are in some way connected derives from their shared reliance upon practices that are best described as chorographic.
During the past thirty years the Survey of Memphis and others have acquired more than two hundred borehole logs from the Capital Zone of Egypt. Combining these boreholes with maps and satellite images, we show that, during the past five thousand years, the geography of the Nile has been in constant flux with mean rates of migration around 2 m/y and one of its channels becoming extinct, by nature or through human intervention. Re-visiting ancient texts in the light of this changing environment, we show that the literary settings of both fictional and historical texts were real landscapes known to the authors. Hence we infer that ancient descriptions of landscape can be interpreted in a more literal way than before and that the authors were not as prone to writing of a metaphorical realm as was previously thought.
The materialization of religious beliefs is a complex process involving an active dialectic between ideas and practices that are physically engraved in the artefactual remains of ritual activities. However, this process is relevant only if it is based on a contextual association of elements (e.g. the performance of ceremonial activities, the creation of symbolic objects, the construction of ceremonial spaces) that validates the meaning of each component as part of a whole. Thus, archaeologists should try to connect these elements to form a network of meanings that stimulated the senses of ancient individuals in framing their cognitive perception of the divine. The study here presented will thus tackle such general theoretical tenets focusing particularly on the importance of the materialization of religious beliefs in constructing the ideological and economic domain of small-scale societies in rural contexts. In so doing, these topics will be confronted and developed through the analysis and interpretation of the archaeological data obtained from the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000-1600 BC) architectural complex at the northern Mesopotamian site of Hirbemerdon Tepe, located along the upper Tigris river valley region in modern southeastern Turkey.
This article discusses social interaction in the Epipalaeolithic of southwest Asia. Discussions of contact, social relationships and social organization have primarily focused on the Pre-Pottery Neolithic and are often considered to represent typical hallmarks of emergent farming societies. The hunter-gatherers of the final Pleistocene, in particular those of the Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic, have more rarely been the focus of such discussions. In this article we consider evidence for interaction from the Azraq Basin of eastern Jordan, to question the uniqueness of the Neolithic evidence for interaction. We argue that interaction between differently-constituted groups can be traced within the Early Epipalaeolithic of the southern Levant, suggesting that it is of far greater antiquity than previously considered.
It is often the case in interdisciplinary accounts of human evolution that archaeological data are either ignored or treated superficially. This article sets out to redress this position by using archaeological evidence from the last 2.5 million years to test the social brain hypothesis (SBH) – that our social lives drove encephalization. To do this we construct a map of our evolving social complexity that concentrates on two resources – materials and emotions – that lie at the basis of all social interaction. In particular, novel cultural and biological mechanisms are seen as evolutionary responses to problems of cognitive load arising from the need to integrate more individuals and sub-units into the larger communities predicted by the SBH. The Palaeolithic evidence for the amplification of these twin resources into novel social forms is then evaluated. Here the SBH is used to differentiate three temporal movements (2.6–1.6 Ma, 1.5–0.4 Ma and 300–25 ka) and their varied evolutionary responses are described in detail. Attention is drawn to the second movement where there is an apparent disconnect between a rise in encephalization and a stasis in material culture. This disconnect is used to discuss the co-evolutionary relationship that existed between materials and emotions to solve cognitive problems but which, at different times, amplified one resource rather than the other. We conclude that the shape of the Palaeolithic is best conceived as a gradient of change rather than a set of step-like revolutions in society and culture.